The accessible genetics and extensive skeletal musculature of the zebrafish make it a versatile and increasingly used model for studying muscle contraction. We here describe the development of an in vivo assay for measuring the contractile force of intact zebrafish at the larval stage. In addition, as proof of applicability, we have used this assay to quantify contractile strength of zebrafish larvae in a morphant model of deranged rbfox function. Average maximum tetanic (180 Hz) whole-body forces produced by wild-type larvae at 2, 3, 4, and 5 days post fertilization (dpf) amounted to 3.0, 7.2, 9.1, and 10.8 mN, respectively. To compare at potentially different stages of muscle development, we developed an immunohistological assay for empirically determining the cross-sectional area of larval trunk skeletal muscle to quantify muscle-specific force per cross-sectional area. At 4-5 dpf, specific force amounts to about 300 mN/mm(2), which is similar to fully developed adult mammalian skeletal muscle. We used these assays to measure contractile strength in zebrafish singly or doubly deficient for two rbfox paralogs, rbfox1l and rbfox2, which encode RNA-binding factors shown previously to modulate muscle function and muscle-specific splicing. We found rbfox2 morphants produce maximal tetanic forces similar to wild-type larvae, while rbfox1l morphants demonstrate significantly impaired function. rbfox1l/rbfox2 morphants are paralyzed and their lack of contractile force production in our assay suggests that paralysis is a muscle-autonomous defect. These quantitative functional results allow measurement of muscle-specific phenotypes independent of neural input.